Marjolijn Haasnoot, Judy Lawrence, Alexandre K. Magnan (2021) Pathways to Coastal Retreat, 2021, Science, Vol 372, Issue 6548. doi:10.1126/science.abi6594
There is an urgent need to take coastal retreat more seriously as an option for adapting to sea level rise (SLR) and as a strategy capable of providing positive outcomes, if planned ahead. Early signs of such thinking are emerging. We demonstrate how exploring pathways to managed retreat adds value in the context of irreversible long-term SLR. Retreat is typically framed and understood as a single action, largely used after events rather than preemptively, and considered as a last resort. However, implementing managed retreat constitutes a multidecadal sequence of actions (i.e., across pathways) including community engagement, vulnerability assessment, land use planning, active retreat, compensation, and repurposing. This Policy Forum advances practical knowledge on what pathways to coastal retreat may look like and how they can pave the way for flexible and positive transformational adaptation, if started now.